Minneapolis — As teammates admired and discussed his toughness, Matthew Stafford slowly moved around the locker room, and Lions wide receiver Golden Tate perhaps provided the best explanation of what happened with the quarterback.
"I think today he was hurt but not injured," Tate said after a 26-16. "I have no doubt he's hurting, but he got up and found a way to compete still."
The Lions should find out just how injured he is soon as Stafford underwent X-rays on his ribs and chest after the game, adding yet another ailment after he dealt with a right arm injury last week and a left hand injury early Sunday.
Asked in the locker room if he planned to play next Sunday against the Denver Broncos, Stafford said he couldn't answer the question, though a Lions public relations employee had indicated that Stafford was done taking questions.
Stafford suffered eight quarterback hits Sunday, and even though just one was a sack, he was running outside the pocket several times to avoid pressure.
"It (stinks) seeing him if he's in pain, but he's a tough bird and we've got to protect him better," Lions left tackle Riley Reiff said.
Stafford played much of the game with tape on his left wrist and just below his left elbow. He ditched the protective sleeve he wore late in Week 1 after taking a hard hit from Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram.
In the game, Stafford finished 32 of 53 for 286 two touchdowns and one interception. He barely tried to throw balls deep, but coach Jim Caldwell said that wasn't related to the throwing arm injury. Tate and Vikings cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said they didn't notice any fluctuation in velocity from Stafford.
"If he was limited by his right arm, we wouldn't have played him," Caldwell said. "Getting hit out here as many times as he got hit obviously that took a toll on him, but he hung in there."
And now, the Lions must find a way to improve their blocking before a matchup next Sunday against a Denver Broncos defense featuring two of the NFL's top passer rushers in Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
"One hit is too many," Caldwell said. "We've just got to make certain we keep him clean."